Alaskan Olympic Dreams

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Russia is a month away from starting up the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, and on the way there is Alaskans hoping to bring back metals to the 49th state.  Not surprising, Alaska has a much greater rate of participants in the winter Olympics than the summer version; and as small and tight knit our state is, sending one to the Olympics is like sending a close friend there.

In a way, that’s kinda true on my side — okay “close” is pushing it but still.  If you look up the USA Women’s Curling Team heading to Sochi, it includes Jessica Schultz.  She is originally from Anchorage, where she learned to curl in the same club that I play in.  More so, her father, Marty, is still a very active member (he is our “Ice Guru”) and I curled on his team last February for a weekend.  She lives and practices in Minnesota, and her return to Anchorage happened during my Hawaii recovery weekend, so I never actually met her — but you can bet I am riding that “I know someone at the Olympics” deal.  For those of you from where I grew up – here’s another “small world” moment.  Marty is originally from Potosi, WI — who visited Prairie du Chien regularly to play softball in his youth — and kept asking about bartender’s daughters he chased after back then.

Currently, Anchorage has four Olympians we claim as our own – with Jessica and three other women cross-country skiers that come out of the Alaska Pacific University club.  Because of our long winters, cross-country skiers tend to represent Alaska recently.  Fairbanks is sending a curler, I believe, for the men’s team and there may be others going too.   Fairbanks has a world class curling center, so that isn’t surprising.  Being a Hockey state, we’ve had some chances at representation there.  While it’s not on the world cup circuit, the ski resort outside of Anchorage, Alyeska, does have hills that can bring in the top skiers in world as well, so we have had some Alpine skiers out there too.

With all of that, some might think it would be crazy to talk about an Olympics in Alaska … which Anchorage responds with, “Not So Fast My Friend”.  While all that is in the past, Anchorage is looking to create another go for possibly the 2022 or 2026 Olympics.  The hard part about Winter Olympic venues is having the weather & topography for outdoor events.  Like I mentioned, we have the ski hill for the Alpine events, and we have Kincaid Park which was used for World Cup Cross-Country Skiing and Biathlon in the past.  We have a couple of arenas existing for some indoor venues.  Yet the US Olympic Committee prefers locations where new venues can be built — which Anchorage would have to do for the sled races, ski jumping, artistic skating, hockey, and speed skating.  We already have a huge airport capable of the traffic required — and while it seems to be a long way from the Lower 48, with the planet being round and all its the same distance to y’all as it is to Europe & Asia.  That and we would have nearly 10,000 hotel rooms that would normally be empty because “people don’t visit Alaska for the winter”.

Still think an Anchorage Olympic Dream is crazy?  .. “Not So Fast My Friend”.  Anchorage actually was a part of Winter Olympics bidding.  In the 1980s & 90s, there were aggressive bids put in by Anchorage, leading to consideration in three different Olympic years.  You may know that the US Olympic Committee only allows one bid city per Olympic year to be submitted.  For the 1992 & 1994 bids, that US city was Anchorage.  The voting was deep into the end of the cold war and followed the ’88 Calgary games, so many feel that no American city would be picked — still, Anchorage came just a few votes short of getting it in 1994.  After stepping aside for the 1998 Olympics they tried again for the 2002, but lost the US City bid by one vote to Salt Lake City (who later was found to have bribed the International committee to get the bid).

But enough about the past and the future – right now let’s live in the present.  This is a good luck to all the Olympians, Alaskan or not.  You know I’ll be watching.

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